“I just want to be miserable!”

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
…how often I have longed to gather your children together…
but you were not willing.”
Luke 13:34

From time to time I find a person with many difficulties in life yet they seem to be unwilling to have their problems solved. Try as I might, they find a reason why every solution offered to solve their problems will not work. There seems to be a determination to be a failure. I am at a loss to understand why such people refuse to turn, resolve their  difficulties and become joyful.

In raising children parents will find occasions when a child is determined to stay unhappy and miserable. Most parents will hear or have heard one or another of their children say, “I just want to be miserable!” These people chose depression over a solution to their issues.

Some people overcome by grief certainly need professional help. We cannot reduce all depression to a spiritual problem any more than we can say cancer is just a spiritual problem. People sometimes have brain injury, or disease that causes depression, or they may have chemical or hormonal abnormalities or simply be aging and find themselves depressed.

Our verse today is a quote of Jesus when He looked on the city of Jerusalem which would not come to Him to have life. For over 6 months Jesus had reflected on Jerusalem and how the citizens rejected Him (Luke 13:3419:41-44Matthew 23:37). He knew that soon enough He must appear there for the last time and allow their rejection of Him to climax with His crucifixion.

The city of Jerusalem suffered from the difficulty of being under oppression by the Romans. It probably seemed to certain citizens of Jerusalem that they might never get out of their difficulties. Others decided that the only solution was a Messiah who would become a political leader and raise an army to put the Romans out of their beloved country.

When Jesus refused to become a military leader (John 6:14-15), the Jews became upset with Him for not meeting their expectations of what the Messiah should be. They preferred to be miserable rather than have the kind of Messiah Jesus offered them. It was not a chemical imbalance or brain injury that changed their personalities—rather they wilfully spurned Jesus and determined to look elsewhere for their leader.

The verse today is a lament or mournful statement by Jesus over the people’s unwillingness to come to Him and take Him on His terms. Jesus is never happy when people reject Him. It was His great desire then and is still His desire today, that people come to Him and accept Him on His terms. We cannot simply seek a Jesus Who will serve our needs and take away all the difficulties of life. We must accept Jesus for Who He is and submit to His plan is for us. Are you willing to submit to this gracious and loving Saviour today?

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God’s Mysterious Will

“For it is better, if God should will it so,
that you suffer for doing what is right
rather than for doing what is wrong. 
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time…”
1 Peter 3:17-18 (NASB)

A biblical tradition one denomination of Christians uses prominently is to say, after sharing plans for upcoming events, “All our plans will happen if the Lord wills.” That postscript is based on our verses for today and is a useful way to view all of our plans. Too often we can think we will certainly do this or that without reference to our sovereign God and His plans.

When we prepare for the future, we seek to take into account every possible detail but only God truly knows what shall happen. We are left to make educated guesses.

Our verses tell us about a dark possibility for us in the will of God. Peter writes that suffering for living holy lives can be in God’s will! But how can a loving, sovereign God choose to lead any of His children through the way of suffering? This seems impossible. Yet there it is right in the Bible. If we read the dreadful story of Job’s suffering, we are again confronted with the same truth of God allowing His godly child to endure terrible sorrow.

What Peter is stating is what is called the “inscrutable (impossible to understand) will of God”. There are aspects of God’s rule in providence that we cannot comprehend. An example from God’s creation has to do with Einstein’s Field Equations. These 10 equations make perfect sense to only a select group of brilliant scientists. Yet reality is based upon them as seen in Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

So, if only a small group of brilliant people can understand these equations why do we think that our feeble minds can grasp the mind of God? Why do we seek to comprehend what is totally beyond our limited ability to grasp?

Jesus made a profound statement once when speaking of the inscrutable will of God,

“You have done this Father for it was good in your sight”
(Matthew 11:26)

The Master taught us to bow before the sovereign will of His Father in heaven simply on the basis it seems good in His sight. Such faith is never more honouring to the Lord as when we have no understanding of what or why this sorrow has come knocking on our door, but we submit to the Father anyway.

Are you in need of help with your faith today? Are you still struggling to understand why your life has led you down a lonely path others are not required to travel? You are likely seeking to know what is unknowable.

Pascal, a brilliant intellectual of the 17th century, once wrote, “Reason never shows itself more reasonable that when it ceases to reason at things that are beyond reason.” May our loving heavenly Father grant you an abundance of grace today to say with Job so long ago,

“Even if He slays me, I shall trust in Him.”
(Job 13:15)

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Who Really Needs Help?

“Where were you
when I laid the earth’s foundation?”
Job 38:4 (NIV)

One of the most difficult realities of life for us to learn is how utterly dependent we are on many different things.

As you watch children develop you quickly learn that they have an independent spirit and wish to do things themselves. For example, when feeding time comes, a child soon desires to use the spoon or fork for themselves and start to resist being spoon fed.

Children are programmed from birth to gradually become independent of their parents. This is normal and it is good.

A truly helpful parent will teach their children to become more and more independent until the parent is no longer necessary in the child’s life for most situations. Granted that wise children will seek counsel from their parents, but for most situations young adults properly raised will function well on their own.

But then a crisis arises and the young adult flounders as they seek to make sense of the issue and determine how to handle it. It does not matter how well we have raised our children, they are going to face problems too great for their resources. We know that because we have been overcome ourselves and find we do not have the resources to cope.

Perhaps our employer went bankrupt or inflation has eaten away our retirement fund and we must keep on working when we should have been able to retire in comfort.

Maybe we were born in a poor country and regardless of how hard we work, life seems too much. Then there are people with health issues that hold them back. One of our children may not able to earn a living and we ache for them. We wonder how they will cope when we pass on.

So many things come along to remind us that we are not as self-sufficient as we thought in our youth. It can be embarrassing for us as we age and perhaps become more dependent on our adult children and others to support us. Who needs help? We all do. The sooner we recognize it the better.

Job is a man in desperate need. His entire world has collapsed. As he staggers about under the crushing load of his grief, he has endured the misguided advice of his “friends”. They add to the suffering by their clumsy efforts to help.

Then God speaks and silences the nonsense of the “friends” of Job. What God does is rather surprising. He does not explain to Job why he suffers as he does, rather God points to His creation and asks if He needed help or advice putting the world together. God takes Job back to when the worlds came into existence and indicates by the verse for today that He needs no one.

God is the only One in the universe who does not need anyone or anything. On the other hand we all arrive at the place in life where we know that we cannot survive on our own.  Perhaps your burden today is going to be used to draw you to the all sufficient One. He calls on all of us to turn from our bankrupt resources to Him and find all we need for time and eternity.

If God could put the entire universe together by Himself, then He can pick up the broken pieces of your life and make a new person of you.

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Is There a Doctor in the House?

“…you are worthless physicians, all of you!”
Job 13:4

In the early 1970’s there was a TV comedy called, Is there a doctor in the house? It is the story of a doctor in a small town who hires a newly graduated doctor without realising the M.D. is a woman. He dislikes women and the series revolves around how he copes with a female doctor in his practice.

In other words, my title today is certainly not original. If you watch drama movies you will also come across this question in some scenes of medical emergencies. In the right context it is a most appropriate question to ask.

The person who spoke our verse is Job and he has a problem because he is surrounded by “comforters” who think they are spiritual doctors. They are trying to make an accurate diagnosis of Job’s problem with God. Regrettably these friends have made a very inappropriate diagnosis of Job’s problem.

They have the very simple view of relating to God that says, “Serve God properly and you will be blessed. Sin against God and you are sure to suffer.” Now there is some truth in what they say and we cannot write off their comments altogether. It is clearly taught in Scripture that the final end of those who persist in sin is punishment at the hand of God.

But that is not to say that all Christian people who suffer must be very sinful and in need of punishment from God. Job is the most important example in the Bible of a person who is pleasing to God and yet endures great pain and sorrow in life.

It is difficult to find a finer person in all of the Old Testament than Job. Yet this man went through greater sorrow than perhaps any other person in the Old Testament. It does not make sense. How can we think our way through this story? Or closer to home, how can we make sense of the suffering of a loved one who brought nothing but joy to the family?

What we really need to do in the context of seeing a fine person like Job under a crushing burden is to stop trying to reason the whole thing out. We must stop our search for an answer and bow before a sovereign God and say with Jesus (Matthew 11:26),

“Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight.” 

There are riddles in life that no one can think their way through. We read of the righteous suffering as 1 Peter 3:4 reminds us. In this situation we need to have faith that God is both righteous Himself and that He is still in control of His creation.

When we want to deny the goodness of God in the context of suffering, we are taught to bow down and acknowledge that God is God, confess that He is good, and later He will explain everything to His own people. We are to

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” 
Psalm 37:7.

May you have grace to do so today.

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Promises, Promises

Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return.
They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
Isaiah 35:10

Many of us have listened spell-bound as a fast talking salesperson praises the virtues of the product he/she is selling. Some salespeople are so good we begin wondering how we have managed to live so long without the thing they seek to sell us.

Great promises are made to us about how this thing will save us time, help us sleep like babies at night—or whatever else their product is designed to do. The salesperson will tell  us this is our lucky day and he/she will close with some line like, “Would you like to take this one home with you or can we ship it to your front door at a minimal cost?”

So many promises are made to us every day that we become cynical about everyone who makes promises. Such a mind-set can make us wary even of the promises of God! Such a concern should not be entertained for a second.

The reason we should be concerned about a salesperson’s promises is that their product is made by fallible people like us and they can make mistakes building or assembling the item in question. The design may be faulty or the claims exaggerated.

When it comes to The Lord, we should look at His promises made many years ago and see if they came to pass. Did God promise anything in a time past that did not come true? Never! Everything God promises happens just when and as He prophesied.

The reasons for all of God’s promises coming true include His infinite power to do as He says. No one—nor anything—can cause Him to break His promises. God does not make mistakes and as we look at creation we see remarkable wisdom concerning how everything works together.

Sometimes we have to break a promise because of unforeseen circumstances. Something happens that we did not take into account when we promised something and now we must change our plans. God never changes His plans. He knows the end from the beginning because He plans whatever happens. Nothing takes God by surprise to upset what He chooses to do.

God is not deceitful. He never lies—as we are tempted to do at times. We can always believe the Lord. He has earned our trust from situations in the past—where His word came true in spite of great obstacles.

His love in times past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink.
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in reviews,
confirms His good pleasure to see me quite through.

-John Newton

Judge not The Lord by feeble sense. But trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

-William Cowper

If you are the Lord’s the best is yet to come. You shall certainly see His promises fulfilled, every one of them! Put your trust in the infallible One today and ride out the storm. Soon enough He will speak the word, the storm will instantly pass, and you shall have a safe harbour at last.

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